Samuel Sandmel’s article, “Parallelomania” (1962)

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18 thoughts on “Samuel Sandmel’s article, “Parallelomania” (1962)”

  1. Parallelomania: on Sandmel’s 1962 article
    “Parallelomania” is the title of an article by Samuel Sandmel in Journal of Biblical Literature 81.1 (March 1962) 1-13, from a December 27, 1961 lecture, which is influential but may not be entirely reliable. Sandmel began: “I encountered the term parallelomania, as I recall, in a French book of about 1830, whose title and author I have forgotten….” Here I assume familiarity with the article, paraphrasing and omitting footnotes. He tells of someone imagining that Paul, while writing the Epistle to the Romans had open on his desk a copy of the Wisdom of Solomon, and used parallels from it, repeatedly—an imagined view he ridicules. A post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.
    I searched for that circa French book, but did not find it, even though searching in 2021 is a different world than in 1961, given hathitrust, google books, gallica, and other searches, and the extremely extensive bibliography in Joseph A. Fitzmyer’s 1993 Anchor Bible Commentary on Romans (eg. 1819 anon., Geneva; 1838 Mynas; 1843 Oltramare).
    Here are (only) selected tentative findings, chronologically. None French circa 1830.
    1841 10 Mai, Moravia [Brünn] article on Theatre (Google Books) p. 147/2
    mich seine von jeher so gründlich angewidert , als die eben Theater jeßt grassirende Parallelomanie
    [Is this mere coincidence, or an explanation why Menzel, writing in German, used a French word?]
    1873 Biographie e cose varie {Palermo] GB p. 124, comparing music.
    Ma quando finirà questa epidemica parallel-mania ?
    1879 see 1909
    1888/1889 Der griechische Einfluss auf Prediger und Weisheit Salomos von Paul Menzel. Parallelomanie on pages 22, 40 (2x), 57, 62, 67. Too much to type (from hatitrust.org, HT; 1888 dissertation then 1889 book), but on p. 40 (book)
    In unserer Zeit ist auber auch diese Method bis zu einer solchen Parallelomanie (sit venia verbo!) vorgeschritten, dass man gegenwärtig bereits ein und fast ein halbes Hundert philo- sophischer loci herzuzählen weiss, die entweder Anklänge oder zum Teil Entlehnungs-Stellen zu gewissen Stellen der Sophia sein sollen.
    1889 Alphonse Serre, parallélomanie attributed to Menzel. HT Ditto 1890 and 1891 authors HT
    1909 C. Clemen. Parallomanie attributed to a1879 London lecture. Probably: Religious parallelisms and symbolisms, ancient & modern.
    A lecture delivered before the Sunday Lecture Society … by Matthew Macfie 1879 HT
    1911 Acta Academicae Velehradensis v. 7. Review of Nicolaus Globkovskiij, Evangelium St. Pauli…1910. In materia hac tratanda saepe directe conspicitur, quaedam ,parallelomania’, accurata vero analysis ostendit, omnes illas analogias exaggeratas esse [p. 239]
    1913 R.H. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha…vol. 1 (noted by Sandmel)P. Menzel [author guessed at, but with a different book title, by Sandmel] Der griech. Einfluss auf Prediger und Weisheit Salomons, 1889, pp. 39-70. Menzel gives a useful table of passages—which Professor Margoliouth says ‘might be considerably reduced without disadvantage’—where connection between Wisdom and greek philosophy has been pointd out by Grimm and Pfliederer. He has coined a somewhat question-begging epitet in the word ‘parallelomania’ which shows his attitude towards those who would trace the ideas of the author to their source. He admits, however, some of Pfieiderer’s positions. Menzel is severely criticized by Heinisch, pp. 9 ff. Cheyne (Orjgin of Psalter, p. 423) calls the work ‘a painstaking dissertation…[p. 533—an early recognition that the word can be misused dismissively]
    1913 (noted by Sandmel) A.T.S. Goodrick, The Book of Wisdom.
    Parallelomania can hardly excel Gregg’s suggestion (Introd., liii.) that ‘Lk. 2″ recalls Wisd. 7, where the homely detail of the royal child being wrapped in swaddling clothes is recorded.’ He rightly adds that ‘these similarities may be purely accidental.’ [p. 184]
    Avoiding the “parallelomania” which, according to Menzel [De Graecis in libris Koheleth et Sophiae vestigis], p. 40, has enabled some critics to adduce some one hundred and fifty passages of Greek writers to illustrate a single passage of Wisdom, we may set ourselves to inquire systematically what the traces of heathen philosophy in our author…. Some of the passages relied on to prove their connection are mere instances of “parallelomania.” In 7.8…. [p. 405]

    1. An indirect refutation of the noted anonymous french scholar might be available in the work of Hays.

      • Gieschen, Charles A. (January 2006). “Listening to Intertextual Relationships in Paul’s Epistles with Richard Hays” (PDF). Concordia Theological Quarterly. 70 (1): 17–32.

      Hays provides us with a model for reading Paul with greater sensitivity to the fact that the Old Testament, which is the core of Paul’s worldview, was the quarry for his theology, even for a significant amount of the language he used. —(p. 18)

    2. • Menzel, Paul Adolf Ferdinand Theodor (1889). Der griechische Einfluss auf Prediger und Weisheit Salomos (in German). C. A. Kaemmerer & Company. p. 62

      Denn was zunächst die dann und wann vorgebrachten formalen und stilistischen Parallelen anlangt, so dürfte jeder nicht Voreingenommene nunmehr zugeben, dass sie eher die Parallelomanie der Kommentatoren als wirkliche Kongruenz . . . Die Allgemeinheit des Gedankens ist der Grund dafür, dass man ihn überall bei willkürlicher und leichtgläubiger Exegese verwenden kann

      • Google Translate

      For as far as the formal and stylistic parallels that are brought up now and then are concerned, anyone who is not prejudiced should now admit that they are more the parallel mania of the commentators than real congruence. . . The generality of the thought is the reason that it can be used anywhere in arbitrary and gullible exegesis.

    3. So far, apparently, Sandmel’s 1961 misstatements include that he read it in a French book and dated about 1830, when it’s more likely he read it in German and dated decades later. He’s right about some (though Germans) over-comparing Wisdom of Solomon to Epistle to Romans.
      On page 12, Sandmel wrote “…lack of restraint. I allude to the work of a British scholar, the author of many works on Jewish history, who began his essay on the [Dead Sea] scrolls by saying that the difficulty of the problem of the scrolls stemmed from the fact that, up to the time of his writing, no historian had approached the scrolls. Quite modestly, this British scholar offered himself for the task. His theory wins by a length in my opinion the race for the most preposterous of the theories about the scrolls.” I guess—but haven’t confirmed—that he meant Cecil Roth (more likely than his sometime co-author, G. R. Driver).
      An example of possible parallelomania (?): Russell Gmirkin reinterpreting the bogus Letter of Aristeas to propose the five books of Torah were composed in their entirety plus translated into Greek at the Library of Alexandria circa 273-272, inspired by Greek authors, Berossus, Manetho, Plato, et al. The oldest (distant) DSS are date-estimated only slightly later, so far (and Tigchelaar, et al., with new paleography, C14 and AI, may date some mss earlier).
      Some of my mistakes (I’m a poor typist):
      The 1873 Italian should read parallelo-mania. (The hyphen is not at a line break.) The Latin (like English) also ends in /a/ not /e/. German has Parallelomanie. French had /e/ plus (sometimes?) accent, parallélomanie. Perhaps Sandmel (like me?) mixed up German spelling with French?

    4. SG, you inform us that,

      “Parallelomania” is the title of an article by Samuel Sandmel in Journal of Biblical Literature 81.1 (March 1962) 1-13, from a December 27, 1961 lecture . . . Here I assume familiarity with the article . . . .

      I am wondering if you are aware that the post to which you are replying is an instance of that entire article by Sandmel, headed “Parallelomania”, with the journal source clearly marked Journal of Biblical Literature and its date, beginning with the words just as you “inform” us it does, re the lecture source, etc. Perhaps you have pasted a comment from elsewhere without realizing the nature of this post.

      As pointed out in another comment, the reason I have made this article available here is to point to it each time I come across a scholar appealing to it as if that is all that is needed to dismiss certain kinds of arguments they don’t like. Very often it is evident that the one appealing to Sandmel’s article has not read it and makes erroneous assumptions about what they think it says.

      More than the origin of the word parallelomania itself our interest is in justifiable methods of analysis and comparison.

  2. I made Sandmel’s article on Parallelomania available here as a direct response to the many critics who throw around a reference to the article despite appearing not to have actually read or recalled what Sandmel has to say. Very often I have encountered critics, unfortunately more often among scholars than laity, scorning an argument that they have labelled an instance of parallelomania supposedly addressed by Sandmel. More often than not at that time I saw that the critics had no idea what Sandmel actually explained was the “sin” of parallelomania, or how to distinguish between reasonably valid and invalid parallels. Too many critics too often simply dismissed an argument as “parallelomania” because they did not like the implications of the sometimes very real and valid parallels found in different works. They pulled out Sandmel as their response, presumably thinking that that was all that was needed to make their case. Yet all too often Sandmel’s discussion of parallels made it clear that certain parallels are indeed validly assessed and worthy serious study. Sandmel pointed out the logical or methodological fallacies behind “false” parallels.

    I decided to keep Sandmel’s article linked here as an easy point of reference for any time I encountered a misapplication of the appeal to Sandmel’s article.

  3. I discussed Sandmel in connection with modern theories of comparative studies in the footnotes in Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible (New York: Routledge, 2017), 3. The main text, without the detailed footnotes, read as follows:

    “Modern scholars of ancient legal systems kept noting contacts between Greek and biblical legal traditions. The existence of shared Greek and Jewish legal traditions was difficult to accommodate under a view in which the biblical law collections were believed to have been created prior to the arrival of the Greeks in the east. Points of comparison between Greek and Jewish historiography, prophetism and other cultural and literary institutions were similarly problematic. As a result, various strategies were employed to explain Greek legal and literary features in biblical literature in pre-Hellenistic times. Purely typological parallels came under increasing disparagement in comparative studies, and properly so (Sandmel 1962). Instead, comparative studies came to be viewed as methodologically valid only if the cultures or literatures being compared were within the same “historical stream,” that is, if the societies under comparison were in geographical proximity and sufficiently close in time to allow for a direct or mediated flow of ideas (Malul 1990; Talmon 1991). A major difficulty in applying this approach to Greek comparative studies was that possible influences were artificially restricted to the historical period when Samaria and Judah were kingdoms or provinces within the Ancient Near East, prior to Alexander’s conquests of the east and the first major contacts between Greeks and Jews.”

    I discuss methodologies of comparative studies and source criticism more extensively in Chapter 1 of my forthcoming book from Routledge on Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts.

    Malul, Meir, The Comparative Method in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Legal Studies. AOAT 227. Neukirchener: Verlag Butzon & Bercker Kevelaer, 1990.

    Talmon, Shemaryahu, “The ‘Comparative Method’ in Biblical Interpretation—Principles and Problems.” Pages 381-419 in Frederick C. Greenspahn (ed.), Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East. New York: New York University, 1991.

  4. Though I cannot speak for the late Shemaryahu Talmon, and some of his writings are not at hand today, I can say that I knew him at least a little (and did a small amount of English editing with him), I can perhaps recall that he may have considered the Torah older than third century BCE.
    In the current issue of Dead Sea Discoveries 28.1 (2021), Laura Quick, “Bitenosh’s Orgasm, Galen’s Two Seeds and Conception Theory in the Hebrew Bible” the Abstract includes: “…. in this essay I argue that rather than deriving these ideas [of embryogenesis] from the Greco-Roman world, the conception theory which informed the Genesis Apocryphon is in fact consistent with notions that can already be found in the Hebrew Bible and the wider ancient Near East.” If I understand her article correctly, she cautioned against imposing in this case Greek sources on a Genesis account.

    1. I can perhaps recall that he may have considered the Torah older than third century BCE.

      But T’s view of the age of the Torah is irrelevant to Russell Gmirkin’s point. Gmirkin’s comment clearly explains the problem raised by Talmon in relation to “biblical history”. We enter into a circular argument if we say that the biblical history of Samaria was not in proximity to Greece. The argument raised by Gmirkin is that the evidence more economically justifies a time when the “biblical history” was written at a time when Greek influence was very proximate.

      Laura Quick’s article is happily open access: https://brill.com/view/journals/dsd/aop/article-10.1163-15685179-bja10005/article-10.1163-15685179-bja10005.xml

      Indeed, “in this case” of the Genesis Apocrypon she does “caution against” drawing on Greek influence in matters related to theories of conception. But she does so, by her own admission, against two other scholars who have favoured the Greek influence. She also speaks of the Hebrew Bible as if it were composed before a time when Greek influence was a significant factor and sets it alongside Near Eastern thought as a foil against the later Genesis Apocryphon.

      Nevertheless, rather than deriving these ideas from the Greco-Roman world, in this paper I consider the possibility that the Genesis Apocryphon could be informed by notions found already in the Hebrew Bible and earlier ancient Near Eastern literature. . . . I turn to uncover conception theory in the Hebrew Bible, arguing that similar views on the necessity for female pleasure during intercourse as well as the existence of female seed can already be found in biblical texts. This is consistent with the wider ancient Near East, although dissenting and alternative views on the topic are also evident. Thus, in matters of female sexuality and conception, the Genesis Apocryphon is consistent with earlier biblical and ancient Near Eastern theories.(p. 42)


      These ideas exist already in biblical literature, and therefore there is no need to derive the source of similar views in the Genesis Apocryphon from the Greco-Roman world—instead the authors of this text may simply be drawing upon earlier biblical ideas and beliefs. In fact, that these ideas developed in the biblical world separately from and in parallel to the Greco-Roman discourse is unsurprising given that similar viewpoints can be found already in the earlier ancient Near Eastern material. (p. 54)

      So Quick assumes the Bible is part of Near Eastern thought (as it surely is! — the question Gmirkin raises is the degree of Greek influence in addition to that of the Near East) and her argument can hardly be used to “caution against” Greek influence there.

      Sandmel’s article warns against “extravagance” in affirming parallels, as you know. Quick’s article makes it abundantly clear that any suggestion of Greek influence in the Genesis Apocryphon is by no means a case of “extravagance”. Quick acknowledges the depth, complexity and plausibility of arguments for Greek influence even though she takes an opposing view. Indeed, Quick even equates the validity of her Near Eastern thesis with that of Fröhlich and van der Horst when she writes,

      I reject that this theory can only be derived from Greco-Roman precedents. . . . . To relate the theory of conception which informed the Genesis Apocryphon purely to Greek scientific concepts fails to do justice to the ancient medical knowledge developed in and evidenced by the Hebrew Bible. (p. 59)

      Note the qualifiers “only” and “purely”. That is not a “warning against” a theory of Greek influence on the Apocryphon with respect to a theory of conception. It is an argument that respects that of the opposing view while offering what the author believes is a superior explanation.

      The reason I placed Sandmel’s article here was to make it easy to point to what Sandmel said about “extravagance” and also to what he said about valid comparisons. Quick acknowledges the valid logic of the Greek influence hypothesis “in this case” despite her disagreement with it. Sandmel’s thesis cannot validly be used “in this case”.

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